Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey ... How Are You Helping?

Dear chevrei (friends),

Ah, unhappy, storm-tossed soul, with none to comfort you: I will make garnets your building-stones, and sapphires your foundations.
Two weeks ago, these were the opening words of the Haftarah portion from the prophet Isaiah. And now, there are millions of Americans storm-tossed by Hurricane Harvey. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the storm as well as those on the ground providing aid and shelter. Reports are only beginning to quantify the amount of destruction, making it clear that recovery will be long and difficult.

Many in our community are looking for ways to provide assistance to the communities affected by the storm. In relief efforts following natural disasters there is often confusion about how best to provide help. In this case, the challenge is compounded by the ongoing rain and flooding, making it difficult to assess the damage.
With help from the Social Action Committee, we have compiled a short list of organizations that we know are directly working with storm victims and have immediate needs. We encourage you to give generously to these and other organizations.
  1. URJ Greene Family Camp: The Reform Movement's camp in Texas is spearheading two different initiatives. They have opened up the camp facility for families who need shelter. They are also organizing "Hurricane Harvey Houston Day Camp." In addition to providing a full day of supervision and activities for kids whose parents need to focus on storm recovery, the Day Camp will be serving families meals.
  2. Texas Diaper Bank: The Texas Diaper Bank helps families all year long, but are receiving a tremendous volume of requests from displaced families in need of diapers.
  3. Food Bank of Corpus Christi: The Food Bank is focused on getting food and water to displaced families.
There are two Reform congregations in Houston, Congregation Emanu El and Congregation Beth Israel. While they are still compiling data on the impact of the storm on their families, we do know that Beth Israel suffered extensive damage to its building, including the sanctuary flooding. Emanu El's building suffered only minor damage and will be hosting the day camp described above. In the coming weeks we will let you know if there are specific ways that we can help these congregations recover. We are especially proud of the work that Rabbi Josh Fixler, grandson of our member Thelma Fixler, is doing to provide comfort to his community in his first year as a rabbi at Congregation Emanu El.
In the Haftarah portion this week, also from the prophet Isaiah, God tells the people, "with love unending I take you in." May those forced to flee their homes by Hurricane Harvey feel this love through the actions of brave first-responders, kind neighbors, compassionate volunteers, and generous donors.

With great hope,
Rabbi Nichols signature
Rabbi Nichols

Monday, June 26, 2017

What Have I Learned My First Year as Your Cantor?


As I write this article, I am thinking back to this time last year when I was writing to introduce myself to the community. Well, I have now been your cantor for a year. I have gotten to know many of you, I have learned from you and I look forward to getting to know you better over the coming year. And I hope that many of you have gotten to know me, and that you have learned from me as well. But I want to focus on some of the things I have learned during my first year as your cantor:

You love this community.


That’s a strong but true statement. The only vague part is who “you” is. I’ll start with the congregation at large. Some of you regularly attend services. Some of you volunteer and commit time and talent to TINR. Some of you donate generously. Whatever your involvement, time and again you have shown how much you care about your community.
And the clergy and staff love this community. It is refreshing and energizing to work with colleagues who share such a strong commitment to this community. I enjoy working with all of my colleagues here at TINR and I am strengthened by their individual efforts and the overall commitment of the team.

You love music.

So many of you have shared your sincere appreciation for what I bring to this community, musically and otherwise. And the comments go well beyond typical praise. Clearly this congregation is made up of insightful and thoughtful appreciators of music and worship. This is not to say that I am not questioned or criticized on occasion. But those comments too show a love and respect for the role of music in the synagogue. I don’t expect everyone uniformly to love all the music we do here, but I certainly appreciate the passion that so many of you show for music in its infinite variety.
Many of you have also chosen to participate in creating music for our services. Whether you sing in one of our choirs, play instruments or have helped to lead through chanting our sacred texts, you have joined me in uplifting the community in song and prayer. In music, as in all things, we are stronger together.


You love this building.


We are lucky to inhabit such a beautiful building, designed by Percival Goodman in 1962. Clearly the mid-century modern architecture impacts the identity of our community—just look at our logo. It’s not a menorah or other Jewish symbol, but a stylized image of our building. But a building of this age, designed for a very different community more than 55 years ago, must change. How exciting that this summer we are able to renovate our sanctuary, thanks to the Raizen and Fadem families and their generous support. See all the pictures below!

Keeping with the ideals of Reform Judaism, we do not ignore our history. We seek to adapt and renovate in a way that respects the sanctity of the original design but allows the sanctuary to remain relevant and functional for contemporary worship. Besides an aesthetic freshening-up of the space, our renovation will lower the bimah, creating a stronger bond between congregation and clergy. The barriers between our synagogue musicians and the bimah will be removed, creating a direct connection between me and the other musicians, and a stronger bond between all of our musicians and the congregation. The more gracious space for musicians will also accommodate a grand piano, allowing us to create more varied musical worship. The sanctuary and bimah will become accessible to all with a ramp to the bimah and an integrated listening assistance system for the hearing impaired. The fixed pews will be replaced by flexible seating, allowing for unique seating arrangements that may suit a particular service or event. Improved lighting will enhance the worship experience for all.

By the time you are reading this, the renovation will already be underway. I encourage you to stop by the lobby to have a look at our renderings for the newly renovated sanctuary. And most importantly, mark your calendars for Shabbat evening, September 15 as we rededicate our sanctuary prior to the High Holidays.

Come Rosh Hashanah, we will be able to sing with full hearts, “Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha, v’nashuvah. Chadeish yameinu k’kedem.” Return us to You, Adonai, and we will return. Renew our days, as before. May this summer be a time of renewal for all.

L’shalom,








Cantor Schloss

Architect's Rendering

































Friday, January 27, 2017

Celebrating Tu B'Shevat in Kehillah!



While we are in the midst of the coldest months in New York, we celebrate the “official” start to Spring in Israel with Tu B’Shevat. In my mind, this holiday really encapsulates what Judaism is all about. It is a day that we celebrate trees and nature, which are an integral part of the human environment.

Traditionally, planting parsley has been a long-standing Tu B’Shevat preschool activity. Now what does parsley have to do with trees? Well, I imagine that pre-school teachers of years past could not plant actual trees with their students or that the symbolic act of “buying” a tree in Israel was not tangible enough. Given these factors, engaging in a planting activity was (and still is) a good way to discuss nature in a classroom setting. What is really wonderful about this activity is that if you plant the parsley on Tu B’shevat, by the time it germinates and grows, we have jumped two holidays to our major Spring holiday of Passover. A major component of the Passover Seder is Karpas, which is the spring herb/vegetable often represented on the Seder plate by parsley. The Jewish calendar works in amazing ways!

At Kehillah, we will be planting tons of parsley in a new parsley garden. The students will be able to both predict what will happen to the seeds and observe the parsley once it is planted. Basically, the children will be able to document the whole process from start to finish.

Planting parsley on Tu B’Shevat for use on Passover reinforces in a cyclical way how holidays connect us to seasons and one to another.

This Tu B’Shevat try planting something in your own homes that can be used later in the year.

Chag Sameach,








Abra Goldemberg
Director of Early Childhood Jewish Education

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Paint Nite" at Temple Israel of New Rochelle




This is what community looks like at Temple Israel of New Rochelle!

Grabbing aprons, paintbrushes and maybe some liquid courage, 35 women got in touch with their inner Picassos for Sisterhood's Paint Nite. It was a night full of creativity and laughter and too much cheese. Thanks to those who joined us! We look forward to seeing the "artistes" and all other Temple Israel of New Rochelle women at future Sisterhood events. Visit www.tinr.org/events to see those and other Temple Israel events!